Monday, September 7, 2020

Coastal Cleanup California: right from your doorstep!

Almost 50 years ago, 1972 to be exact, California voters supported the passage of Prop 20 which eventually led to the passage of the Coastal Act and the establishment of the California Coastal Commission. Since then, September has seen the world largest organized beach cleaning event. For obvious this year, we aren't called to all gather along the California beaches on the same day. This year, we are invited to participate, not virtually but actively and remotely, from our own neighborhood. Knowing that every piece of garbage on our streets eventually finds its way to the sea, unless we act!

This manhole cover and plaque is at the corner of my street, a great reminder I can't miss every day! As another job at work, I support our California Environmental BRG (Business Resource Group). At IBM, BRGs gather volunteers around a common passion and theme: LGBTQ+, Asian-American, Veterans, work&life integration, Women, BAME (Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic), environment, ...

For September, one of our Bee Green challenges at the state level is to participate in this monthly Coastal Cleanup program. There are multiple activities offered including one that everybody can do, right from home (albeit not from your couch though! ;-) ). It consists in picking trash in your neighborhood and log it on the CleanSwell mobile app. When I saw that, I didn't feel it was appropriate to my situation. I'm fortunate to live in an upscale neighborhood of Silicon Valley, with neat sidewalks mostly bordered by manicured front yards with green grass. Well, that's what I thought, I must have been running way too fast to notice... ;-) Back in 2011, I paid a tribute to the numerous trees in this neighborhood, really feeling blessed, especially when our nearby hills are still burning...

This Saturday, I did my usual 5K loop in blazing heat and poor air quality when I noticed a huge piece of styrofoam on the sidewalk. That was it, I picked it up and stopped by the house to drop that trophy and pick an empty bag, a pair of gloves and my phone with the app; let the treasure hunt begin! For those who aren't familiar with my blog, I love running. The neighbors who are used to see me running for hours must have wondered what happened to me: I was running a few steps, and stopping every time I was spotting a piece of trash. I never thought I would have to stop so often... That didn't make for a great run but I managed to fill two bags of trash, yikes! Here you are, a disgusting picture just after 5 kilometers.

I let you click on the image to see the details: 3 gloves (including 2 a few hundreds yards from a COVID-19 community testing site...), 6 face masks (people lose their masks while walking or driving by, really?), countless pieces of paper and shopping receipts and the usual beer cans and plastic cups. Oh, and if you though the sanitizing wipes were dissolving in the air, think again, that's not the case AT ALL; got a dozen of these, yes, disgusting!

Also, 6 cigarette butts which is quite low compared to France! Speaking of butts, watch this 6-minute story on what happens to this type trash, I'm sure you'll learn a lot, as I did a few weeks ago. I had no idea for instance that ic could resist for so long in water, and arm fish...

By the way, I picked everything but... poop bags, you are welcome! Even wrapped in a plastic bag, there is some limit to sanity and devotion to embellish the neighborhood...

While I was astonished with what I collected, I was sad to spot some new trash on my run on Sunday morning, very disappointing.

With that, your turn now, let's each do a piece to embellish the plant and protect Mother Nature, ok? Right at our doorstep! Go, walk or run, and clean!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

2020 PA MUT Grand Prix: it's a wrap! Down that is.

It's going to come as a relief for quite a few local runners who lobbied for it, a disappointment for others: we are concluding and terminating this year's USA Track & Field Pacific Association Mountain Ultra Trail running Grand Prix (sorry for the mouthful acronyms)! This microscopic corona virus continues its ravage, especially here in California, and challenging the self-discipline of our American way of life, or lack thereof in too many places. Some people call it a monster; it's impact on our society surely shows in the numbers and the fact it touches everything. And, our world being so connected, everybody. In multiple waves.

Although a few good news keep emerging with regard to progress in treating patients for instance, or how many infected end up being asymptomatic, every step forward comes with two or three backward ones, like the multiple hot spots created by the social isolation fatigue of younger generations in particular. With that, and in particular the potential 2-week transmission lag, it's impossible to build any reasonable or consistent trend, neither long term nor even short term.

In the case of our Grand Prix, we solely rely on Race Directors. Some of you, runners, had asked the Pacific Association to intervene but, apart from passing the guidelines issued by our National USATF governing body, it was up to these valorous RDs to decide on the fate of their events. Sincere thanks to all these RDs who had to endure so much trouble, incertitude, stress, financial burden, either to keep their event up, postpone or eventually cancel them.

All that being said, we still had a Grand Prix a week ago, at least for individuals. Our LDR (Long Distance Committee) virtually met on Sunday July 12, and here are the resolutions which I brought forward and were all voted:
  1. With Skyline 50K being postponed from August 4 to September 26, that created a scoring conflict with Dick Collins Firetrail 50-mile. We agreed that individuals could score in either one.
  2. One of the most pressing requests from the team captains was that we canceled at least the team competition, to avoid peer pressure (runners feeling obliged to run for their teammates). Since we had canceled the team scoring for the mid March Pioneer Spirit 50-mile Trail Nationals anyway, the cancellation of that part of the Grand Prix was voted at that meeting.
  3. From the initial 17 scoring opportunities for the whole year, that left us with 4 more on top of the 4 we had in the winter, enough to have a meaningful Grand Prix. As a matter of fact, we agreed that, even if 2 of these scoring opportunities vanished, we could still proceed with 6 scores. That meant that we set an automatic cancellation of the Grand Prix as soon as 3 events were canceled.
Well, fast forward 2 weeks and...
  1. Last Friday, Adam Ray from Scena Performance had the regret to email us about the cancellation of SkyFire, that is both Skyline and Firetrails. 2 races but one scoring opportunity down.
  2. On Saturday, the Quicksilver RDs, Pierre-Yves Couteau and Loren Lewis, emails all the registrants to Quicksilver 100K that they had to cancel that race too, in October. Minus 2!
  3. On Sunday, Steve Jaber and Anil Rao, RDs for Ruth Anderson Memorial Runs 50K and 50-mile, let me know they were cancelling as well.
We were still in July and, like that, in the midst of a new wave of Covid-19 cases in South California in particular, the Grand Prix was shut down. Not a pleasant decision but such an insignificant one compared to the case of reopening school and businesses of course! Or making both ends and surviving for tens of millions of Americans, and many more around the globe.

Ironically, with ultra race registrations starting so early in the year, some as early as September, August had become the time we had to plan most of the next Grand Prix season. Given the current situation, I trust nobody is going to pressure me on that planning, this year. We can't even plan a race for this Fall, we can barely figure out if the situation is going to get worse or better with the flu (!) season. We can only pray that we'll get to some new normal sometimes in 2021. But when?

I've interacted a lot with Race Directors, from those who have lost their business income with this pandemic, to those who were volunteering to help our ultra community by perpetuating race traditions. I'll keep this communication channel active to be ready to plan 2021 as the current fog and incertitude dissipates.

By concluding and terminating, in the introduction, I mean cancelling in terms of overall year end scoring. I still asked our GP Scorer, Nakia, to bring back the scores as they were after 4 events, for the sake of recognizing those who participated through last Winter.

Speaking of recognition, the 2019 Age Group Champions will keep their race discount benefit through 2021. But there won't be prize money or plaques, even based on the first 4 2020 events; and likely no PA banquet either.

If, despite this lack of competition, you are in top shape, kudos for your intrinsic self-motivation! If you are missing our opportunities to meet at these races, hope you still considered leveraging virtual races and challenges, while keeping physical distance. If you have been injured or even caught the virus (I heard of a few and I think I got it too), enjoy this time off competition to rebuild and come back stronger.

Oh, and it it feels safe enough by early December, let's all show up at PCTR's The Ridge event which was on our Grand Prix calendar and got moved from June to December 5, OK?

We all look forward to physically reuniting in the not too distant future, stay safe, healthy and sane in the meantime!